Architecture student fulfilling lifelong dream to build

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A. Sue Weisler

Mingbo Peng, a Master of Architecture student, earned honorable mention for his “Orbis” border-crossing project in a national design competition.

Mingbo Peng knew as a small child growing up in China that he had a strong propensity toward wanting to build things.

“When I was little, it always made me happy when I saw my friends enjoying an environment that I created for them—like a labyrinth or cardboard houses,” recalled Peng, a Master of Architecture student from Wenzhou, a mountainous city in southeastern China.

“I always knew I wanted to be an architect because my childhood dream was to grow up and create amazing spaces for others,” he added.

Others are becoming familiar with Peng’s talents as well. The Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture, along with the American Institute of Steel Construction, recently recognized his “Orbis” design with an honorable mention at the 14th annual Steel Competition, a highly competitive national challenge. The program required students to explore a wide range of issues related to the use of steel and construction in the design of a border-crossing station.

Peng’s participation in the national competition synced up exactly with the challenge’s focus since he was already taking a course at RIT on integrated building systems with Professor Jules Chiavaroli, whose class and Peng’s design instruction were knowingly focused on steel structures to put him in the best position to succeed.

Peng designed his project with sustainability in mind, consistent with the strong focus in RIT’s Master of Architecture program. He wanted to create a “net zero” energy structure, meaning the total amount of energy used by the structure on an annual basis had to be roughly equal to the amount of renewable energy created on site.

“To achieve this target, I did a lot of research about local natural resources,” Peng said. “I integrated a ventilation system with wind turbines to increase the efficiency of both systems. I also designed an operations system that used seaweed and integrated it with the HVAC and electricity system.”

Seaweed was appropriate because the sustainable transportation hub mimicked the shape of an island. It was designed to produce enough surplus electricity to power up to 600 area homes daily and absorb 11.8 metric tons of carbon dioxide from the environment.

“Mingbo did a great job of merging his design work under the direction of his studio instructor (Alissa de Wit-Paul) with the structures he was studying in my course,” Chiavaroli said. “This push and pull between design and technology is critical in creating a successful project, especially since the competition was judged on design as well as its effective use of steel. Mingbo clearly showed he’s adept at both.”

Peng is hoping to continue to build on his success and wants to do more sustainable construction projects.

“Sustainability is really a key point of consideration for me,” he said. “The majority of architectural projects I saw while I was an undergraduate were not really sustainable, which is why I decided to study this field. I want to understand, research and design truly sustainable structures.”